Day 9. Setting off from our makeshift campsite we crossed through the rest of serbia without incident, an easy crossing back into the EU via Bulgaria. Not in Bulgaria for long, really just passing through, then another easy crossing into Romania with only a small “bridge tax” to pay and a cursory glance in the back of the van by customs.
Road quality deterioated a lot in Romania, as did both the quality of driving and the quality of vehicles being driven. Tom, who has being paying paricular attention to the tractors of Eastern Europe, has observed that tractor quality has now dropped to its lowest point yet, with us regularlly passing horse and carts on even quite major roads.
We also got pulled in by the Police for the first time today, twice in one day in fact. The Bulgarian police pulled Tom in for a random spot check, we were sent on our way after presenting UK passports, however Charlie was pulled in for speeding in Romania. After a bit of a tense wait whilst the officer disappeared with our passports and Charlie’s driving licence, we were let off with a “yellow card” and no penality to pay.
Romania, despire re-entering the EU, has been by far the most economically backward country we have passed through so far, which was clearly visible in the towns and villages we passed through. Tom’s measure of economic wealth by tractor quality is holding true, and prices of food, eating out and camping are the cheapest (and also most basic) that we have seen so far.
We’ve started our way up the Transfagarasan pass today, touted by Top Gear as the best road in the world, camped at a small site a rather challenging all-terrain 1km off the main pass road. Local food and beer consumed, soon time for bed!
Day 10. Left our small campsite nestled in the hills and continued to make our way up the mountain pass, climbing to over 2000m and just into the cloud-line. Bertie has been as good as gold plodding quite happily up the hills and round the many, many hairpins. The road quality was pretty dreadful, with huge potholes, missing guard rails and frequent boulders and landslides blocking parts of the road.
The summit offered some amazing views and was obviously a bit of a tourist hotspot with small booths selling local cheese, sausage and pretzel. The down-hill side of the pass was obviously the section featured on Top Gear, and was a very scenic drive with noticeably better road quality.
Moving through Northern Romania was much smoother, the economy here is obviously doing much better than in the south (on Tom’s scale, less horses more tractors, he even saw two brand new self propelled potato harvesters), the roads were better and the large, modern, petrol stations we’d seen in Bosnia and Serbia were much more common.
We camped in a small woodland clearing, and spent the night watching the wildlife (rather paranoid about bears again).